A glimpse into the life of a court musician. (spoilers for the entire series)
Notes: Written using themes from the 100 Leitmotifs Theme Challenge Livejournal Community.
Symphony of a Killer
a drabble series in 18 movements
Movement 1. Widow's Walk
Instead of receiving a proper burial, her father's corpse rotted in the caverns outside Zenmi-jou. No one spoke of the Jigokuten after that. Kendappa refused to suffer the same fate. People would speak her name for generations after and mean /her/. Not her mother, not her daughter, but her.
She swore it when Taishakuten drove his lance through her father's heart.
Years later, when her mother, the widow of a man memory forgot, walked into court, she fell in love with Yasha-ou. He had a mistress who gave him a son with beautiful eyes. He had a wife who gave him an heir. Her mother loved a man who never reciprocated her feelings.
Kendappa vowed never to make that same mistake.
Movement 2. Dignity
Her first kill was ugly and messy. She meant for an instantaneous death, but her opponent was resilient. Despite the fact that her sword had cut deeply enough to spill his intestines across her boots, it took him an hour to die.
By the end, he begged for the pain to stop. He cried out for the mother who was likely already dead. Even when nothing but blood poured from his mouth, she continued to hear the pleading.
After that, Kendappa began to take their heads.
Movement 3. Bottle Black
Her mother's hair was the color of night.
Kendappa's hair is a rich brown. It is the shade of her father's hair.
Her mother's beauty was refined delicacy.
What Kendappa lacks in cultivated fragility, she makes up for with coy charms. Most people do not notice the imperfect curve of her cheek, or the way her eyes are set too far apart.
Her mother's performances were clear and pure.
When Kendappa plays her harp, the notes sing of sorrow. It never fails to elicit a reaction. Especially when her songs spoke of the peace that comes with death.
She is her father's daughter.
Movement 4. Milk White
The skirmish against the mazoku tribes took longer than she expected. Kendappa never expected to see them this far south. They usually congregated in the north, in Yasha clan territory.
A maid placed a basin of water before her and left. Sighing, Kendappa peeled off her gloves, then began to cleanse her hands. The water turned pink as the blood washed off her skin.
Somewhere to the North, Yasha performed this ritual. Somewhere to the South, so did Karura.
Even as an adult, she remained close to her childhood friends.
Movement 5. Hidden Place
When she assumed the name of Kendappa-ou, many people wondered if she would live up to her mother's skill.
She silenced their doubts the first time she performed at Zenmi-jou.
When she assumed the name of Jigokuten, Taishakuten wondered if she would share her father's fate.
Kendappa cannot help but wonder the same thing.
And even though countless deaths press heavily against the familiar weight of the sword hidden within her harp, the answer continued to elude her.
Movement 6. In Concert
Taishakuten often calls Kendappa to Zenmi-jou's northwestern tower and asks her to play her harp.
Kendappa never asks him why he desires these private performances. The tower is heavy with memory, rife with sadness and thwarted love.
It also reeks of blood.
Movement 7. Delicacy
Tenoh sends her flowers after gift after flowers after gift. It makes her maids giggle and sigh with delight. It makes Tamara fume with jealousy. It makes Taishakuten laugh when they are alone.
And oblivious to it all, Tenoh continues to send her gift after flowers after gift after flowers to replace lifeless bouquets and shattered crystal.
Kendappa wishes he would stop.
Movement 8. Words, Words, Words
The idiot daughter of Koumoukuten is nattering on again. Her voice squeals like a broken flute, each word dropping like a broken drum. Judging by the malicious glances in her direction, Kendappa assumes Tamara is spreading gossip about her.
It would take so little effort to silence that weakling.
A single twist and snap! A broken neck.
A single loop and tug! Asphyxiation.
A single step and slash! A mortal wound.
It would take so little effort, it was /pathetic/.
Movement 9. Little Red Bird
Karyoubinga's laughter reminded Kendappa of ringing bells. "You should visit more often. Perhaps next time we can do a duet. The emperor would like that."
The serene expression on Karyoubinga's face cracked. Her arm jerked, knocking over a glass of wine. Its contents spilled across the table, staining her ivory sleeves and skin. Flustered, the girl fumbled for a napkin. "I am so sorry!"
Kendappa made a dismissive gesture. "Leave it. The maids will clean it up."
"I can do it myself!" Karyoubinga snapped. "I'm not helpless, Karura!" Seeing the stricken look on Kendappa's face, she caught herself. "Kendappa. I meant Kendappa." When she said nothing, Karyoubinga added quietly, "We all have our cages." She used a silk handkerchief to wipe the wine from her skin.
Kendappa thought it looked very much like blood.
Movement 10. Halo Slipping
Taishakuten is never gentle.
He tears the silk sari away from her breasts. The gold filigree woven through her hair snaps between his fingers. Even his lips leave bruises across her skin, which later cause her handmaidens to wail and wring their hands.
The only courtesy he offers is to her harp, which he always touches with care.
Sometimes he takes her on his throne, scattering the latest baubles gifted to him by his wife.
More often than not though, he takes her on the floor of her chambers at Zenmi-jou, next to the wilting flowers gifted to her by his besotted son.
Movement 11. Army of One
"There is an uprising in the south."
"Isn't that under the purview of Zouchouten?"
"He is otherwise occupied with the survivors of the Sohma clan."
"Is that so?"
"Are you questioning me?"
"Of course not, Your Highness. I am just curious."
"I do not have to assuage your curiosity. I gave you an order. Why are you still here?"
"I am leaving immediately."
Movement 12. Second Chance
In my private chambers, there is a woman who sleeps.
My maids speculate in hushed whispers about her identity.
In my private chambers, there is a woman who heals from near-fatal wounds.
I pretend not to hear them.
In my private chambers, there is a wounded woman I should kill.
I have the knife she used to attack me.
In my private chambers, there is a woman I refuse to kill.
It bears the mark of her clan.
In my private chambers, there is a woman who awakens and asks, "Who are you?"
I hurl the knife over the balcony.
Movement 13. Don't Follow
I can't do anything to change your mind. I see it in your eyes, the set of your jaw, your clenched fists. You're leaving with the son of the man who made my mother weep.
I knew I should have killed him. There's a price on his head, and there is a price on yours.
You're going where I never wanted you to follow.
Those hands of yours were never meant to kill. Your clan lived to heal. Why can't you let it go? Why must you embrace the destiny Taishakuten created for you?
Why are you becoming like me?
Movement 14. Flower Petals
When they were mere girls, Kendappa and Karura wore flower crowns and ran wild through the city streets.
As they approached womanhood, Karura traded her flower crown for armor. She became the Southern Bushinshou. Kendappa, on the other hand, took up her harp and became the Gakushi no Kimi.
When Taishakuten declared Karura a fugitive and ordered her death, Kendappa knew she would never see her friend again.
Movement 15. Classic Literature
The Zenmi-jou library reminds Kendappa of Tenoh. The son was nothing like the father; Tenoh loved books and embodied everything gentle and kind. Kendappa wonders where he inherited such a disposition. He certainly didn't learn it from his mother.
It is another one of those encounters where he attempts to charm her but stammers in embarrassment instead.
Kendappa chooses to humor him anyway, studying the rows of books that line the library walls. His voice forms a soothing backdrop against which her thoughts can drift. She wonders what Sohma's favorite book is.
When she returns, Kendappa will ask her.
Movement 16. If You
Her ear feels light without the earring. She wonders if Sohma's naked ear is the same way. Kendappa hopes she is taking care of it. This was her favorite pair of earrings, after all.
Come back to me alive, Sohma. I want to see your face again.
Movement 17. War Drums
Taishakuten watches as she pulls on her black gloves. She asks, "Did you enjoy the show, emperor?" She hefts the sword over her back.
He smiles, a cruel edge to the curve of his lips. "You have nothing I have not seen before." Even now he remains cool, even now as the Stars approach.
"They will not stop until they overthrow you."
"I am not dead yet." Taishakuten turns to leave. "What of you? Your woman with them. What will you do?"
Kendappa says nothing, touching the single earring she wears and thinking of the woman who holds the matching piece. "What I must."
Movement 18. Favorite Mistake
I knew taking you under my protection was wrong. I served Taishakuten. I should have killed you like he murdered your entire clan.
But you were so fierce, daring to attack me with that puny knife!
I knew letting you go was wrong. Following Yasha and Ashura could only lead to your death. I did not save your life so you could throw it away fulfilling a hopeless mission.
Taishakuten is strong and you will fail. He will drive his lance through your body just as he used it to impale my father.
Please understand as you stare at me in shock.
Please understand as my sword pierces your breast.
Smile for me one final time.